A rock n’ roll radio show host railed against gay men for more than thirty minutes on-air. The network aired it, anyways.

John Holmberg's morning show on 98KUPD spent two episodes railing against gay men who live in rural areas.

A protester holds up a sign denouncing SB1001, which eliminates preferred pronouns and names for trans students in Arizona. (Photo by Moses Martìnez, special to LOOKOUT)
An earlier version of this article misstated the first name of John Holmberg. We regret the error.

During two separate on-air broadcasts, a popular morning show host used his time to compare the Pride flag to a Ku Klux Klan flag, say gay male couples were “bad gays” for living in rural areas, and tokenize another gay staff member and asked him if it was better to be “straight or poor.”

The show, hosted by John Holmberg on Holmberg’s Morning Sickness and airs on the rock n’ roll radio station 98KUPD, spent more than 30 minutes between two recent episodes to degrade a gay male couple for flying a Pride flag from their home in Queen Creek, and said the couple should “read the room” and know they weren’t welcome in the newly popular suburb.

LOOKOUT originally wrote about the couple, Jared and Tim Deluca, on how their fight to keep a Pride flag up is in line with current proposed legislation that would address their concerns on homeowners’ associations’ restrictions on flags. Since putting the flag up, LOOKOUT reported, the couple has been threatened, had their property vandalized, and had Bibles thrown at them.

The Queen Creek Police have an ongoing investigation into the vandalism and threats made against the couple.

“I don't go down Van Buren and start shouting at pimps that they shouldn't be there. I just know better. Should they be there? The pimps? Probably not. But it's not my business. And they've been there longer than me. And that's just the way things work.”
-John Holmberg on the Deluca’s being “antagonists” to their neighbors, Holmberg’s Morning Sickness, Jan. 31, 2023

Holmberg, who originally saw the story first aired on Arizona Family, first belittled the couple in his morning show on Jan. 19, by saying that the gay people “were not welcome” in Queen Creek: “I mean, it's just a thing,” he said. “You have to realize when you're gay, what a gay is doing in Queen Creek? What in the world are gay people doing in Queen Creek? That's like me as an atheist going to church every Sunday and being upset that they're mad at me.”

He then accused the two of moving there because they were poor, or that they moved to Queen Creek because they thought it was a gay bathhouse, and then said that two men in a relationship who were not rich were “bad gays.”

“If you're broke gays, you're doing it wrong,” he said. “Gays are two male incomes.”

Though a rural area for years, the town of Queen Creek has sprawled into a  fast-growing suburbia, with a housing market that’s grown exceptionally fast as many millennials—such as the Deluca’s—get priced out of more typical young Phoenix suburbs, such as Gilbert or Chandler. The median sale price for homes in the Queen Creek area as of December last year was half a million dollars.

Other mentions Holmberg made included: He compared flying the Pride flag in Queen Creek to someone raising a Ku Klux Klan flag in Maryvale, a predominantly Black and Hispanic neighborhood in West Phoenix; His co-host jokingly said that if a resident in his Mesa neighborhood flew a Black Lives Matter flag, “there's a for sale sign usually within two days,”; He also used a prominent lisp to impersonate gay voices.

“Heck, where I live, it's unexpected to see a heterosexual, for crying out loud. The gays are everywhere. It's clean, and it's nice, and they can hang all the flags they want. But, you know, if one Nazi flag went off, you'd kind of notice and maybe that would be a thing because in Queen Creek, that's basically a Nazi flag.”
-John Holmberg, Holmberg’s Morning Sickness, Jan. 19, 2023

In response to the show host, the Deluca couple posted on TikTok saying, “The real sickness is perpetuating the idea that gays aren’t welcome in Queen Creek, AZ., and that John Holmberg makes his living off degrading people."

@jdeluca.realtorAudio from 98 KUPD Holmberg’s Morning Sickness, Jan. 19, 2023. The real sickness is perpetuating the idea that gays aren’t welcome in Queen Creek, AZ.., and that John Holmberg makes his living off degrading people… #fyp #lgbt #queencreekaz #98kupd #fmradio #degrading #insult #arizona #badgays #trending #viral #livefree #whyyousoobsessedwithme #hubbardradio #3tv #speakup #speakout #pushback #ericsfamilybbq #lernerandrowe #thebigredradio

In an interview with LOOKOUT the Deluca’s said they flew their flag because they continually saw young queer people in their neighborhoods and wanted to show them support where there is no queer representation. They also said that since the vandalism and threats, more people have come forward with welcoming them, including the mayor, they said.

On Tuesday, Jan. 31, Holmberg went back on air to defend his earlier show, and said the couple was trying to “play media victim so they put out a little TikTok video.”

“I'm not watching it,” he said. “They didn't listen to my segment. They assessed what they thought they heard. I'm gonna go ahead and say — they put out a thing that says I am trying to get people killed. Well, nothing at all has happened. Nothing from my words or anyone else's has occurred where there's a bad moment. People who are smart understood my point.”

Holmberg defended himself by saying he has “gay neighbors” and he also was, in fact, a gay man—Holmberg is married to a woman—but has not been “minted” as one, saying, “I'm not a minted homosexual. I'm very pristine. I’m picking the right boy not some slut. Someday, I'll meet that right boy. I haven't yet, but my wife and I talk about my homosexuality all the time.”

Holmberg then continued to say that his argument was not to say LGBTQ+ people were not welcome in Queen Creek, but that the city doesn’t want them: “They just don’t say that out loud.”

“There's no gays in Queen Creek.”
-John Holmberg, Holmberg’s Morning Sickness, Jan. 31, 2023

A voicemail left with the radio station, KUPD, asking for comment was not returned by publishing. The story will update with comment if radio station leaders do so.

This is the second major media outlet in the past month to publish or air anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric in a heightened time when the state legislature has proposed more than a dozen bills that aim to erase queer people from public life, including in schools, public venues, theaters, and parades.

On Jan. 26, The Arizona Republic published an opinion story by conservative columnist Phil Boas that, as originally published, compared trans teens to asking to be called “rats” and “frogs” and wrote, without evidence, that students who socially transition in schools are pushed to do medical interventions, such as hormone therapy or double mastectomies.

The Republic removed the language around animals, but left most everything else untouched. In a letter to editors, reporters at The Republic have called for the piece to be re-edited for context, accuracy, and fairness.

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